Car Restoration Projects
Two MGBs are better than one
Kevin Buckley, not satisfied with restoring one MGB, embarked on a second, but this time a GT version of this quintessentially British and ubiquitous sports car. Not to break with the Buckley tradition this one is red too, albeit a different shade: Flame not Tartan.
As you may observe when perusing the Buckley rebuilds, the end result is better than the first attempt by British Leyland – a sad indictment of what was once a great British car manufacturer.
In compiling this story, Jim Gibson was lucky enough to drive both of these beautifully restored Bs. It had been some time since he’d driven an MGB, but there was no doubt that, from his previous experience and driving Kevin’s pair, there were some very subtle differences in road manners. Both models are are mighty fine examples of the marque.
Kevin purchased the GT in a sad state:
“It was a gloomy yellow highlighted by plenty of rust and the interior needed a lot of work as well,” said Kevin.
“The previous owner was overwhelmed by the amount of money he’d spent on the engine and gearbox, so I was lucky enough to snaffle it for a good price – all the young fellow wanted was out!”
Kevin set about dismantling the GT, which took him three weeks.
”It took me five months to re-assemble it, even though I’d taken photographs beforehand.”
Transporting the body shell, guards and other components that needed a hit, he negotiated the goat track road in Mogo (NSW South Coast), to the property of ‘Steve the Sandblaster’.
The next step after preparing the body was to get it to a panel beater/painter. Kevin knew an old tradesman in Dalmeny, who was a true artisan. He’d done a prep and paint job on an MGA 1500 for Kevin some 10 years prior, but Kevin couldn’t encourage him out of retirement.
The fallback was a paint shop in Ulladulla he’d used for the roadster. The seats were also re-trimmed in Ulladulla.
However, when the car arrived on a tilt-tray back at Kevin’s place, the level of paint finish on the exterior and interior was not to the standard he’d experienced with the roadster job.
“I’d noticed when I took the car up to them on this occasion that a young tradesman that had worked on the roadster was no longer there,” said Kevin.
“He was obviously the missing link in the quality of workmanship.
“While feeling a little let down, I just got on with the job of getting my GT finished to the best of my ability and back on the road,” he added.
During the five-month assembly and new parts-fitting journey, he said the very worst job was fitting the new headlining.
The 1972 GT is a later model than the 1970-vintage roadster and there are some differences. The GT has bolt-on, pressed steel Rostyle wheels, the roadster has traditional 72 spoke wires with centre-lock knock-ons. The GT dash has high-level flow-through air vents and a centre console, and of course a rear passenger seat, which is really suitable only for small children.
The GT, with its steel roof and additional glassware is 184kg heavier than the roadster. That extra weight was noticeable when Jim drove both cars, when the roadster had marginally livelier throttle response.
Kevin drew attention to the difference in engine cadence between the two cars. The GT wasn’t as quiet and didn’t have the smoothness of the roadster – a tribute to fellow car-club member and engine reconditioner, Gordon Halliday, who overhauled and machined the roadster’s engine at the time Kevin restored it some years ago.
The pristine roadster was joint winner with Lutz’s Mercedes at a previous car-club Show and Shine event.
Bs in OZ
Debuting in 1965 in the UK, this stylish hatch was a true Grand Tourer, which earned it the nomenclature of ‘GT’.
All 903 GTs imported to Australia were all Completely Built Up (CBU) units from the UK. In contrast, Roadsters came in Completely Knocked Down (CKD) crates and were assembled initially at Pressed Metals factory at Enfield (Sydney), where the predecessor MGA was assembled and later assembly moved to BMC/Leyland’s plant in Zetland.
There was much confusion with running changes and body numbering here, as crates were unpacked out of sequence. Items such as the interior trim, batteries and tyres were locally sourced.
In order to reduce costs, Australian assembly was standardised as much as possible, so some items that were options in the UK were either not offered or were made standard. All locally assembled MGBs came with wire wheels that were usually painted grey, with chrome an option.
All Australian MGBs were fitted with an oil-cooler, mounted ahead of the radiator. Also fitted was a front anti-roll bar.
The fold-down hood was not offered on Aussie Bs, with all receiving a pack- away hood that was available only in black, right up until 1970.
The build quality of the 512,243 Australian roadsters unfortunately suffered due to management decisions and the turmoil that ensued in the company’s demise.